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Leonard Eugene Roberts, 87, of Iowa City, passed away peacefully surrounded by family on Friday, November 24, 2017, after a brief illness. A visitation will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27 at the Peterseim Funeral Home in Kalona. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28, at Sharon Center United Methodist Church in Sharon Center, Iowa. Burial will follow at Sharon Center United Methodist Cemetery.
Len (known as “Gene” in his childhood) was born to Clifford and Mary Roberts on the family farm south of Oxford, Iowa, on November 24, 1930. From an early age, Len charged around the farm, driving a team of horses, milking cows, and occasionally teasing his two sisters. Len graduated from Parnell Consolidated High School in 1949. He served in the United States Army in the 224th Regimental Combat Team during the Korean War where he was promoted to regimental sergeant major. Len's renowned organizational and administrative skills were formed in the Army. Len was proud of his service, having received his Combat Infantryman's badge. He returned as a guest of the South Korean government in 2007 where he, along with Buzz Aldrin and other veterans, were honored for their service.
Len married Mary Joanne “Jo” Standley on June 5, 1954. Together they had four children.
Len obtained his bachelor's and master's degrees from Iowa State Teachers College (nka University of Northern Iowa) and his Ph.D in school administration from Iowa State University. Len's long career as an educator took him from teaching at a one-room school to his retirement as superintendent of Bloomington Public Schools in Bloomington, Illinois, with stops along the way in Cedar Rapids, Hudson, Jewell, Maquoketa, Iowa as well as Lombard, Illinois. Len passionately advocated for education. He exhorted his colleagues to set goals and priorities, adjuring them to, “Do right things. Don't just do things right.”
Those who knew Len as a driven educator, negotiator, administrator or sergeant major, may have missed his keen sense of humor. But his friends and family enjoyed his joshing and colorful expressions; see, e.g., “since Hector was a pup.” Len was a constant student of history and a religious reader of the New York Times. He and Jo retired to the family Century Farm south of Oxford in 1995, but spent their time traveling the globe with their lifelong friends Bill and Deanie Broderick. He volunteered on the Johnson County Foster Care Review Board and as a small claims mediator. He served as clerk for Harding Township until he could finally persuade someone to replace him.
Len is survived by his wife Jo, his children, Jon (Patty) Roberts of St. Charles, Illinois, Peg Kramer, of Iowa City, Carol (Ron) Hale of Groveland, Illinois and Mark (Denise) Roberts of Cedar Rapids; grandchildren, Zarah, Sam, Will, Atticus and Ryan; and sisters, Lois Fergus and Ada Urice. Len was preceded in death by his parents.
Len, like his father, was a longtime donor and volunteer at the Iowa City Crisis Center. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Iowa City Crisis Center or Sharon Center United Methodist Church.
Charitable donations may be made to:
Sharon Center United Methodist Church
2804 520th St. SW, Kalona, Iowa 52247,
Tel: 319 683 2563
Crisis Center of Johnson County
1121 South Gilbert Court, Iowa City IA 52240
I am proud to be Leonard Roberts son-in-law. He has influenced my life in profound ways - as a father figure, mentor, and friend. Little did I know when I met Carol in 1988, that I would get to spend time over the next 30 years with such a great man. Knowing I had lost my parents at a young age, he, at times, offered advice as he would his own children and I was grateful to him for caring enough to do so. Leonard was always generous with his time as he mentored me through challenges I faced as an administrator, executive, and school board member, always providing exactly the right advice and encouraging me to never compromise my values and convictions. Our friendship included many things, like trips to the Millstream Brewing Company in the Amana Colonies and sporting events but I especially liked talking to Leonard about history, politics, and literature, all subjects he was well versed in. Leonard, despite all of his accomplishments, was a humble person. The first time I met him when dating Carol, I addressed him as "Dr. Roberts." He quickly smiled and said, "Ron, this is going to be a whole lot easier for us if you call me Leonard." What a gentleman! My life has been changed for the better because I was fortunate enough to be Leonard's son-in-law.
Ron Hale Nov 29 2017 12:00 AM
Leonard Roberts changed my career. Before he became my boss, I was a principal whose main purpose was to allow teachers to educate their students. This meant I selected strong, and sometimes expensive staff, to do this work, but my focus was on maintaining a good environment that was safe and orderly. Dr. Roberts, as we all knew him, changed that role. He forced me to take responsibility for the leadership role in learning. He made me think and act to lead the teachers rather than just allow them to teach. He made me re-think our organization. His consistent message to "do right things, rather than things right" became the first thought in decision making. He drove me crazy, burying me and all of us in reading material, but change is not easy for anyone. He and I argued over those expensive staff I needed. He kicked me out of his office once over that, but he allowed me to do the right thing and make the hires I felt I needed. I am forever grateful that he entered my life and that his passion made education better for the kids in my school. I pass his message on to new principals whenever I can. My sympathies to Jo and the family .
Rick Laleman Nov 28 2017 12:00 AM
The Madsen's are so sorry for you loss. I remember your kindness when my father passed. It was greatly appreciated. May the love of God, your family and friends sustain you in the very difficult time. He was a great man and will be missed.
Mark and Mary Madsen and family Nov 28 2017 12:00 AM
Peg, I was terribly sorry to hear about the loss of your father. Reading the obituary gave me a small window into what his life has meant to so many people. I would like to offer you and your family my deepest and most sincere condolences.
Marnie Campbell Nov 27 2017 12:00 AM
What a wonderful tribute to a life in service to education. His impact on so many lives can only be fathomed. But, I certainly see that influence in my friend Peg. Light and grace to his family in the days to come.
Amy LaSalle Nov 27 2017 12:00 AM
My sincerest sympathies are with Peg and all of the family during this time. May you all treasure the memories you have of him.
Jeanne Erichson Nov 26 2017 12:00 AM